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No. 13. SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 1785.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE LOUNGER.
"C SIR, "I INHERITED from my ancestors an estate of about 1000l. a year; and as I never had any desire for figuring in the world, I married, early in life, the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman, and till of late years lived at home, satisfied with the society of my friends and neighbours. I found my fortune fully sufficient for my purposes; and was in hopes that I might provide decently for my younger children, who are four in number, without its being necessary to part with an an estate, which, as it had been some centuries in our family, I had an oldfashioned inclination to preserve in it.
"I am sorry, however, to add, that from the circumstances I am now to take the liberty of mentioning, those hopes have given way to prospects of a very different kind-prospects unspeakably mortifying to me, and which ought to be still more distressing to the rest of my family.
"My eldest son, as he possessed but a very limited genius, and showed no propensity to any particular profession, I wished to follow my own example, and become a country-gentleman. But a winter in your city, after having passed a few years at one of our universities, taught him that this was a plan quite unfit for a young man of spirit. As he had there acquired a taste for what he was pleased to call genteel life, by hunting, drinking, wenching, and gambling with all the idle young men about
town, at a greater expense than what supported all the rest of the family at home, I was persuaded to purchase for him a cornetey of horse, in compliance with his own earnest desire, and in hopes that, by a removal from his present companions, he might learn to retrench his expenses, and be gradually reclaimed from the dangerous habits he had contracted in their society.
While my son was thus learning to be a gentleman, my wife thought it no less necessary that my daughters should learn to be ladies.
Accordingly when the eldest was about thirteen, and the other about twelve years of age, they both left my house in the country, and were placed in a boarding-school of the first reputation in Edinburgh.
"At home they had passed their time, as I imagined usefully, in learning to read, to write, to work, to keep accounts, and to assist their mother in the little cares of our household. They had been taught to dance; and they sung, not perhaps with much art or skill, but in such a manner as most people listened to with pleasure. These attainments, however, were of a very inferior kind to what it was now thought necessary they should acquire. They were quickly provided with masters for all the polite and fashionable branches of education. They were taught dancing, for they would not allow what they had learned in the country to deserve that name, drawing, French, Italian, and music; and a female relation, who was kind enough to take some charge of them, sent us the most flattering accounts of their progress in those various accomplishments.
"When I received the bills of the boarding-mistress, even for the first season, I was, I must confess, somewhat out of humour; and it required all the eloquence of my wife, and the flattering accounts
of her kinswoman, to persuade me that the expense was quite so well bestowed as they seemed to imagine. It was, however, a trifle, compared to that which followed. In a few years my young misses were transformed into young ladies; and as the kindness of our female friend procured them an introduction, as she told us, to all the genteel families in town, what between private parties and public places, where they now began to figure, they very seldom found leisure to be at home. The expense which this occasioned, added to that of their education, for they still continued to improve themselves, was such as I could by no means afford to bestow on two members of my family; especially as it now became necessary to fit my two younger boys for the professions they chose to follow; Jack, the elder, being destined for the bar, and Bob for the East-Indies, where, under the protection of an uncle, it was hoped he might one day become a Nabob.
"The beauty and accomplishments of my daughters had now become a favourite topic with my wife and other friends of my family; and to have buried them in a country-retirement, would have been deemed the height of folly and barbarity. For their sakes, therefore, as well as the education of my sons, I was now told it was absolutely necessary we should pass a considerable part of the year in Edinburgh. The separate board I must otherwise bestow on my boys and girls, was supposed to render this a plan of economy; and the few objections I made to it were silenced, by telling me of many gentlemen, from all parts of the country, who had found this the only method of giving their children a genteel education, without the absolute ruin of their fortunes.
"To these reasons, though not altogether satisfied, I gave way. We provided ourselves with a house in town; and for these five years past, have
spent our winters in Edinburgh, and only retired to the country, like other fashionable people, at the end of the season, when it becomes necessary that one part of the family should provide health, and another money, for the gaiety of the next.
During this period I have witnessed the full effect of that fashionable education I had bestowed on my daughters; and it is now some years that they have joined to the other pleasures of a townlife, the envied distinction of Beauties and Toasts.
"You will easily conceive how much this must have gratified the vanity of a mother. My own, Sir, was not altogether proof against it; nor can I deny the pleasure it gave me, to find the company of my daughters universally sought after, and to see their beauty attract all eyes, in every company, and at every public place in which they appeared. I soon, however, found the effects of this distinction to be very different from those which the sanguine expectations of some of us had suggested. Our house, indeed, was filled with visitors in the morning, and in the evening my girls were attended at public places by many of the gay young men of rank and fortune. But the fashion of beauties is scarce more lasting than that of the dress they wear. The admiration which my daughters for some time attracted, now sensibly declines; and, amidst the crowd of admirers which turned their heads, I do not find there has been one whose admiration led to any other consequence than that of gratifying his own vanity and feeding theirs by a temporary homage to their fashion and their beauty. My poor girls, meanwhile, have contracted a habit of living, and a turn of thinking, which will prevent any sensible man of their own station from thinking of them as companions for life; and which, I fear, would ill qualify them for such a situation, if it
should be offered them, or if their own vanity could allow them to stoop to it.
"Jack has been now some time at the bar, and at first gave hopes of such application as would probably have ensured success. But he has not been proof against the vanity of keeping that fashionable company to which the situation of my family gave him access; and now spends his time in a continued circle of idleness and expense, with such young men of fortune as think it an honour done him to admit him of their parties, and will despise him, perhaps too justly, when he can no longer afford to partake of them.
My eldest son, far from profiting by his military plans, has retained the same taste of life which gave rise to them. Besides advancing the price of two commissions, I have repeatedly discharged debts which he is pleased to call debts of honour. After all, he is now obliged to sell out of the army, and end where he should have begun, in the life of a country-gentleman, with the advantage of having contracted a thorough distaste for it; of having thrown away in a round of fashionable vice and extravagance, the plain talents, the honest sentiments, and the sober dispositions, that qualify men for a station which they are too apt to despise.
"The profusion of this thoughtless boy, added to the expenses of my family, has consumed the savings of my happier years; and not only disabled me from continuing our present style of life, but obliged me to dispose of a considerable part of my estate, and leaves it very uncertain what residue I shall be able to preserve for my own support, and for the provision of my family.
"Thus, in place of those flattering hopes we had once formed, my wife, and I, now in the decline of life, have before us the melancholy prospect of